A slick teen horror film that came out around the time that the craze surrounding "Scream" swept the nation, "Campfire Tales" has high production values but lacks punch. Released by New Line in an attempt at resurrecting the anthology horror film, the movie focuses on a group of teenagers whose car has crashed along a forest-y road. They build a campfire and tell ghost stories.
The best anthology horror films – "Tales From the Crypt," "Creepshow," "Asylum" -- always had real camp appeal and were essentially comic books. "Campfire" takes itself a tad too seriously. But as anthology movies go, it was probably the best one since "Tales From the Hood." The stories are apparently based on real-life urban legends.
The best story of the bunch may be the film's '50s flashback opener, which is a typical urban legend story, but ends too quickly. Less interesting was the piece featuring Ron Livingston and Jennifer MacDonald as a couple on a camping trip for their honeymoon, who find themselves terrorized by a monster in the dark. Other tales include one about a haunted house inhabited by a mute super-babe, and the ghost of her father who keeps showing up brandishing an axe, and one about a young girl who gets a chased down by a creep she meets on the Internet, and whom she later confuses with her dog (we'll keep how and why a secret).
The production is well acted, the effects are decent and there are a few decent shocks. But overall, this film lacked the bite of earlier anthology films. A really good anthology movie typically features stories about morally questionable individuals who become tempted, then are destroyed by the evil they help unleash. It's the standard EC Comics formula. But here, the main characters are all just regular people who find themselves in a mess of trouble. The wrap-around plot of "Campfire Tales" is pretty good. But even its twist ending is visible from a million miles away.
Ultimately, "Campfire Tales" is a pretty decent, relatively big-budget fear film worth catching on cable. But it isn't much else. It faded out of print on VHS in the late 1990s, with little chance or demand for it to come back.
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